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SLO County disputes air quality findings by American Lung Association

Air pollution in the Nipomo Mesa caused by dust blowing from dunes contributed to San Luis Obispo County receiving a failing grade for air quality from the American Lung Association, county air pollution control officials said.

The county again received an F for ozone pollution and failed for the first time with a D for particle pollution in the association’s annual State of the Air report, which looked at air quality statewide for 2013-15.

But county air pollution control officials said the ratings are “not accurate” because the way the association compiles statistics paints a confusing picture. The increase in particle pollution during the years measured was small, and is not countywide.

“Ninety percent of our county experiences very good air quality,” said Larry Allen, executive director of the county Air Pollution Control District.

The American Lung Association said particle pollution — microscopic bits of material that can damage the lungs — spiked in the county in the years 2013 to 2015 to the highest levels ever measured in the 18 years the annual report has been issued. Analysts attributed the increase to the prolonged drought.

“We have seen higher particle pollution because of the drought, but they have not been exceeding state or federal levels except in the Nipomo Mesa area, downwind from where the problem is due to off-road vehicle activity on the Oceano Dunes,” Allen said.

We have seen higher particle pollution because of the drought, but they have not been exceeding state or federal levels except in the Nipomo Mesa area.

Larry Allen, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District

At times, pockets of the county — both in the Nipomo Mesa and an unpopulated area near the eastern border — suffer from poor air quality caused by ozone pollution generated in the Central Valley that wafts into San Luis Obispo County.

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